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WQXR Features

Café Concert: Duo Gazzana

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Duo Gazzana's first notes in the United States were played this month in the WQXR Café. The Duo, consisting of Italian sisters Natascia and Raffaella Gazzana, performing respectively on the violin and piano, has been together professionally since the mid-1990s. But although the Gazzanas have traveled throughout Europe, South Africa and Asia, a U.S. concert date has strangely eluded the group until now.

Along with a visit to WQXR, the duo was in town to perform at the Look & Listen Festival in Manhattan, and to promote their second album on ECM, a collection of modern pieces based on old forms like toccatas, suites and canons. Along with rarely-heard pieces by William Walton, Luigi Dallapiccola and Francis Poulenc, there's a Baroque-tinged Suite in the Old Style, written in 1972 by Russian composer Alfred Schnittke. The duo revealed its flair for a well-spun melody with three movements in the WQXR Café.

• Watch the full performance video

The Gazzana sisters were born in Sora, Italy, near Rome, and began performing together at a young age. They decided to seek a professional career together after studies at the University of Rome and later, in Switzerland. While today Raffaella lives in Berlin and Natascia is in Florence, they describe themselves as "best friends" and collaborate regularly.

The sisters hope to promote the cause of Italian instrumental music – not an easy feat in a country so identified with opera. But Natascia Gazzana cites golden-age Baroque composers like Corelli, Tartini, Geminiani as influences, all having brought violin into prominence.

She also acknowledges that there is a definite Italian sound and aesthetic. "For example, the La Scala Orchestra aims to be more melodic," Gazzana said. "In Italy, there is [also] a sense of structure because of our origins in Latin and Greek culture. It's a mixture between the two things."

Listen to the full Duo Gazzana interview:

Video: Amy Pearl; Sound: Edward Haber; Interview: Jeff Spurgeon; Text & Production: Brian Wise